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Dances with Smurfs

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Imagine you just had a really vivid dream and in this dream you are a gibbon (funky or otherwise). Now imagine that in this dream you did the nasty with what (in your dream induced gibbon state) passes for the sexiest gibbon in the jungle. Then you wake up in the arms of said gibbon and realise it wasn’t a dream.

I love happy endings.

In case you hadn’t guessed by now I’ve just seen Avatar. I know I said I wouldn’t but I did. You know, just to see “what all the fuss is about”. If you haven’t seen it and intend to I would advise strongly against it and suggest you read no further in case it spoils any surprises for you. Not that there are any.

In terms of plot there’s not much to say really. It’s basically Dune (off-worlders come to strip planet of valuable resources, one goes native, is subjected to the various rites and traditions of indiginous people, becomes their spiritual leader by riding the biggest baddest predator on the planet and then leads them in an uprising against the environment rapers) only in a jungle. Nice one Jim.

I’m more confused about the 3D element. This after all is going to change how we experience cinema forever. First off I had a toy when I was a kid that was a little binocular viewer. Into this you inserted discs that were basically little cardboard circles with tiny little slides in them. At the pull of a trigger on the contraption said disc rotated and a new slide slotted into place that was an amazing “3D” scene from a Disney film. I particularly remember Snow White. The effect was better than the 3D in Avatar but basically the same.

The result is hugely unsatisfying. It doesn’t look real or make anything look solid. Granted there are some shots where it achieves quite a cool depth effect but only when nothing’s moving against it. As soon as there is any action it just becomes distracting and looks a tad fake. Almost like one of those little paper theaters. In fact, South Park is about as three dimensional. The edge of the screen becomes a horrific barrier to your immersion in the visual effect and anything that hovers at the edge of the screen screams at your eyes to focus on it blowing the whole show.

There’s also that weird “foiling” effect on the colour, especially with the live action bits. That was also distracting and very, very annoying. Any scene with rapid action (and there are a few) blurs beyond all comprehension and I got the sense Cameron was crossing his fingers and hoping nobody would have noticed this limitation of the technology.

I could go on all night (the film did). The whole thing reeks of somebody coming up with the technology first and then trying to find an idea to fit it, settling for a quick fix of rehashed ideas, paper thin characters and unsatisfying set pieces. There is nothing in it to justify it’s 3 hour running time apart from lots of pointless extra shots to show off the tech at the expense of plot and pacing.

If you like any of the following things then maybe you should check it out:

Women marines using their breasts to stage a jailbreak, a lingering close up on Sigourney Weaver’s Avatar’s crotch whilst wearing tight shorts, inter-species sex, bald space marines who hate the natives, heavy handed moral messages, mechanised suits (not good ones I might add), six legged alien creatures and trees. Lots of trees. Oh yeah and a stereotypically “strong” female character who proves she’s as hard as the boys. I think Cameron just has a thing for women in vests.

If, instead, you prefer films to have character, charm, story and emotion watch Pixar’s Up instead. In fact, just watch Up and forget Avatar was ever made. You’ll thank me for it later.

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